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6/3/2005
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Red Hat Spins Off Fedora Project

In a bid to attract a larger following among developers, Red Hat has spun off its Fedora open source project into a more independent foundation.

Red Hat is trying to ramp up its profile in the open source community by spinning off its Fedora open source project into an independent foundation and ramping up its patent reform efforts in the U.S. and in Europe.

As part of the transition, the Fedora open source project will transfer development work and copyright ownership of contributed code to the foundation but Red Hat will continue to provide substantial financial and engineering support.

The company makes its Red Hat Linux distribution available as part of Fedora and said this week that its newly introduced Directory Server and forthcoming Certificate management System will be available on Fedora under the General Public License (GPL).

But the Fedora Foundation is just one of three intellectual property (IP) initiatives being announced by Red Hat this week at its first summit, designed to advance its standing in the open source community.

At the Red Hat Summit, Mark Webbink, Deputy General Counsel at Red Hat, is expected to announce the creation of the Fedora Foundation and the Software Patent Commons. Such efforts signify Red Hat's desire to builder a broader community of developers for its Linux distribution. Fedora is a popular open source project in the Red Hat community but it does have the same pedigree as high profile organizations such as the Linux kernel project, Apache, MySQL or JBoss.

Red Hat released its first Linux distribution to the Fedora project " Fedora Core 1 " in November of 2003. The company is preparing to release Fedora Code 4 in the near future, executives said at the conference in New Orleans.

The proposed patents common, which mimics the Creative Commons licensing scheme for creative works including art and music, is designed to enable developers to exchange ideas with fewer concerns about patent infringement. and Red Hat's efforts to lobby for patent reform in the U.S. and Europe.

Red Hat also promises to bolster its work on patent reform. After his discussion on open source licensing on Thursday, Webbink told CRN that many vendors including Red Hat and Nokia are pushing for is patent and copyright reforms because current laws presents obstacles to the open source movement. For its part, Red Hat is working with the European Parliament to modify the Computer-Implemented Inventions directive, Red Hat said. In the U.S., Red Hat has called for reform of the patent system to ensure better patent quality.

"We're all very active in advancing reform in Europe and here in the US and we will participate in patent reform and copyright reform," Webbink said.

The chairman of a major open source foundation, the Apache Software Foundation, said during his keynote on Thursday that foundation will also increase its lobbying efforts to enable patent reform. The Apache Foundation has challenged a Microsoft Royalty-Free Sender ID Patent License Agreement before the IETF.

Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik said that discussions about patent reform are ongoing to ensure that information can be shared transparently across Europe, the US and across the globe.

"What does it mean when one single American supplier controls how information moves across Europe?" Szulik asked, alluding to Microsoft during the same week the software giant wrestles with possible new fines and Windows modifications being contemplated by the European Commission, and as it agrees to make minor changes in Windows XP to comply with its consent decree in the U.S.

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